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22 February 2008
JSU Professor Talks Terrorism

By Jennifer Bacchus
News Staff Writer

Reprinted here in its entirety.

Imagine sitting in a packed football stadium with thousands of other fans, watching the game and cheering for your team when an explosion set off by a terrorist suddenly rocks the stands, sending sections of concrete falling onto the crowds below.

It is a scene that is hard to comprehend – a terrorist attack at a game – but the scenario very nearly played out in the fall of 2005 when a 21-year-old student at Oklahoma University attempted to set off a bomb strapped to his chest inside the OU football stadium.

Fortunately for those watching the game, Joel Henry Hinrichs III wasn’t able to get into the stadium that day. Instead, after being refused entry to the game, he walked to a nearby park and detonated the bomb.

The event brought attention to what Dr. Lawson Veasey of Jacksonville State University’s Emergency Management Department calls the current real threat of terrorism.

“At Ohio State University you have 105,000 people attend the Ohio-Michigan game and other games. So, you can imagine what a place for a terrorist attack a full football stadium would be,” said Veasey. “You have CNN, ESPN, the major networks, everybody is hooked up and we think as Americans those things don’t happen.”

Each year, Veasey spends time working with responders across the country in training scenarios to prepare them for situations such as the one in Norman, Oklahoma at Oklahoma University. His most recent trip, last August, was to the site of that bombing attempt to teach the police, fire and rescue personnel of OU and the surrounding cities and counties how to respond to and manage a terrorist attack at a sporting event.

“We were called in by the Speaker of the House and the Speaker Pro Tem of the Senate to do this exercise. We coordinated through the department of emergency management on the state level. We were invited in by the president of Oklahoma University,” said Veasey.

The OU scenario took 1,100 student actors, 700 victims from the school’s marching band and two “explosions.” The second one was timed to go off once the police, fire and rescue personnel were inside the stadium.

“We took a section of the OU stadium and filled it up with all these students without really telling the emergency responders what was going to happen,” said Veasey. “About the time all of the emergency responders got to the university and got located, we blew them up again. Which is pretty typical.”

According to Veasey, vigilance is the only thing keeping small-time suicide bombers from terrorizing stadiums, malls and other “soft targets” throughout the United States, reminding the Exchangites present to always report suspicious activities to the police.

“What we hope to stop are incidents like Mr. Hinrichs here who are an incidental terrorist,” said Veasey. “People who lose their path, feel like they are trying to get revenge, but the only security in a society like ours is vigilance.”

About Jennifer Bachus

Jennifer Bacchus is a staff writer at The Jacksonville News. She can be reached at 256-435-5021 or via e-mail at

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